Conference Topic

Law

FEATURED CONFERENCES

Law, Liberty, and Custom in James C. Carter

The chief American advocate of historical jurisprudence is James C. Carter, who defended the common law of New York State from David Field’s scheme for codification. He sought successfully to preserve legal traditions and the spontaneous growth of these traditions from radical Benthamite schemes to supplant legal tradition with a…

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Declaring the Rights of Man: Controversies about Rights and Declarations of Rights in Europe and America

This conference explored the historical and contemporary debates about declarations of rights, in a comparative Anglo-American and European context.

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ALL Law CONFERENCES

The Freedom of the Church: A Foundational Liberty

This conference explored the Doctrine of Church Autonomy through a consideration of the intellectual foundations of the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment, as well as a series of court cases from the early days of the Republic up to recent decisions. The major issue addressed throughout…

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Liberty, Laws, and Mores

This conference explored the relationship between mores/customs and law. Should law reflect existing custom, or should law try to modify existing customs and mores? Are mores the guardians of political liberty, or might they endanger political liberty?

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Liberty and the Free Marketplace of Ideas

This colloquium explored the development of the modern concept of the First Amendment right of freedom of speech from the founding fathers’ idea as roughly defined by Blackstone’s Commentaries through the landmark dissenting opinion of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in Abrams vs. United States, 250 U.S. 616 (1919). The colloquium…

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Liberty, Investiture, and the Papal Revolution

This conference examined the ideas of limited government and the rule of law as they developed through the contest between the princes and the popes during the Investiture Controversies of the late Middle Ages, as presented in Harold Berman’s first volume of Law and Revolution, with supporting primary documents. How…

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The Courts, the States, and Constitutional Liberty

The American system comprises multiple systems of constitutional and statutory law. This conference considered the important relationship of the US Supreme Court to state supreme courts, and examined texts that illustrate the complex nature of the relationship of national to state constitutional regimes, courts, and legislatures.

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Hayek and Oakeshott on Liberty and the Rule of Law

This colloquium explored the relation between freedom and the rule of law as proposed by two major political thinkers of the twentieth century: Friedrich Hayek and Michael Oakeshott.

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Behavioral Law and Economics

This symposium explored the legal implications of the rise of behavioral law and economics, particularly in relationship to ways in which those disciplines seek to justify governmental or other intrusion into individual decision-making.

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The Political Economy of Intellectual Property

This colloquium, on the political, economic, and legal structure of copyright, trademark, and patents, examined the implications intellectual property holds for a free society. This conference was also useful for identifying both individuals and more specific intellectual property issues that could be important to Liberty Fund’s mission.

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Risk, Rationality, and Inalienability

This conference explored a basic and not always hidden premise of modern American legal doctrine, in torts, contract law, and products liability: that valid consent (i.e., the exercise of liberty) cannot be expressed because of the presence of important risk. Is there something about the human mind that makes lucid…

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Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty

This academic Socratic seminar was based on Randy Barnett’s book Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty. Barnett argues that the US Supreme Court has created a strong presumption in favor of governmental action unless one can point to express limitations on government action in the Bill of Rights…

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Liberty in the Thought of Sir Edward Coke

This conference examined the writings of Sir Edward Coke with specific reference to their relevance to liberty, the rule of law, and the protection of rights. Particular emphasis was placed on the role of the common law and courts of justice in the securing of liberty and rights, but also…

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Arbitration, the State, and Liberty

Conferees evaluated the degree to which modern forms of business arbitration facilitate the private enforcement of contracts and law in civil society. The main questions addressed concerned the extent to which such an order depends on, or is independent of, state support and whether or not such private processes facilitate…

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Wealth Maximization and the Law

The conference focused on a particular topic of law and economics: the relation between law and wealth maximization, its central importance to the study of the legal institutions best suited to a free society, and the unique contribution of Richard Posner to that topic.

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Natural Rights, Liberty, and Property in the Thought of Gershom Carmichael and Francis Hutcheson

This conference examined works by two "fathers" of the Scottish Enlightenment, Gershom Carmichael (1672–1729) and Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746). The primary issues addressed remain central to contemporary debates about liberty and responsibility in the academy and the public square: the origin and character of civil and political rights, the limits of…

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The Rule of Law in the Writings of Hayek, Gierke, and Weber

This conference considered issues of liberty and the rule of law through examination of three works: F. A. Hayek’s The Political Ideal of the Rule of Law, Otto von Gierke’s The Idea of the Legal State, and Max Weber’s On Law in Economy and Society.

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Liberty and the Protestant Transformation of Law

Through a careful reading of Harold Berman’s Law and Revolution, II: The Impact of the Protestant Reformations on the Western Legal Tradition, as well as primary sources from the period, this conference examined differing conceptions of law that grew out of the Protestant Reformation. In particular, different polarities in law…

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Liberty, Security, and the Common Law

This conference explored the ways in which the common law has sought to protect liberty in the context of various challenges to it in the name of national security.

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Law and Liberty in Ancient Rome

Using primary sources as a guide, this conference investigated the development and evolution of the major principles of Roman law. The perspective included the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and focused particularly on the moral and philosophic foundations of Roman law, as well as the Roman understandings of natural…

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Liberty, Law, and Economics

This conference on Law and Economics brought together a group of conferees predominantly from the Brazilian judiciary and schools of law. The intention was to learn from the experience of some leading Brazilian legal professionals and scholars how some classical texts in the field of law and economics fit into…

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Liberty and the Scope of Responsibility

This conference examined the moral and legal foundations and implications of an individual's obligation to help others in distress. A key question was whether a right not to act exists. We read philosophical, religious, and legal arguments on this question, and we explored differences between common law and civil law…

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Law, Evolution, and Liberty

The purpose of this conference was to discuss the virtues and shortcomings of the evolutionary account of law and justice, the relation between the "classic" evolutionism and the new evolutionary theories, and the role of free and responsible individuals in each account of law.

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Liberty and the Constitution in the Work of Lysander Spooner

Lysander Spooner (1808–1887) was a radical abolitionist, lawyer, entrepreneur, and legal theorist. Above all, he was a champion of liberty whose writings still resonate today. Organized to coincide with the bicentennial of his birth, this conference explored Spooner’s writings on the US Constitution, particularly his distinctive approach to constitutional interpretation,…

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Liberty in the Writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. has been variously portrayed as a utilitarian, a pragmatist, a believer in natural law, and a realist. This colloquium, an in-depth examination of crucial thoughts and judgments by Holmes, explored the ideas of liberty and responsibility in American jurisprudence.

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Political Power and Individual Liberty in Richard Epstein’s “The Classical Liberal Constitution”

This Socratic seminar provided an introduction to Richard Epstein's The Classical Liberal Constitution by selecting materials from each of the major areas the book deals with: (1) constitutional interpretation as practiced by conservatives, progressives, and classical liberals; (2) the national branches of government and their powers as established by the…

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The Political and Legal Philosophy of James Wilson

This colloquium looked at James Wilson's legal and political philosophy, including his rationales for a number of constitutional principles and the connections he makes between natural law, common law, and the developing field of the “law of nations,” a branch of jurisprudence then being developed in Scotland and which was…

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Liberty, Punishment, and Criminalization

This conference explored the growth of criminal law from a philosophical standpoint. The increase of criminal law, in both the domestic and international spheres, was considered.

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The Administrative State: Its Foundations and Modern Forms

This conference examined, from a constitutional and rule-of-law perspective, central features and pathologies of the modern administrative state.

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Law in a Polite and Commercial Society: Smith’s “Lectures on Jurisprudence” and Blackstone’s “Commentaries”

This conference compared the legal theories of William Blackstone and Adam Smith. Both thinkers considered questions of the nature of law and its relationship to liberty at roughly the same period in history, but their approaches were often rather different. This exploration provided important insights into such topics as common…

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The Jury System in a Free Society

The jury system is central to Anglo-American thinking about the protection of individual liberty. The aim of the conference was to explore the role trial by jury plays in a society of free and responsible individuals, and to include a historical overview of the jury process, current controversies, and the…

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Liberty and the Rule of Law

This colloquium focused on the distinction between positive law, or law as commands; natural law, or law as transcendent reason; and conventional law, or law as agreement and human artifice. At the heart of the discussion about rule of law and liberty is how and when laws restrict individuals’ ability…

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Republican Liberty and the Origins of the Federal Judiciary

This conference examined the subject of republican liberty and origins of the US federal judiciary. The colloquium commenced with an analysis of the Constitutional Convention and ended with the landmark Supreme Court case McCulloch v. Maryland. Emphasis was placed on the concepts of federalism and republicanism.

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Grotius and the Making of Modern Natural Law

The conference examined Grotius's natural law thinking, with an emphasis on its Roman ethical and legal foundations.

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Liberty, Judicial Independence, and Judicial Power

This conference explored the tensions of the American judicial systems at both national and state levels as they arose from the competing needs to constrain power and yet exercised independent legal judgment.

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Amagi: Liberty and Responsibility in Ancient Mesopotamia

This conference focused on four of the earliest names on the wall of the Goodrich Seminar Room, all from ancient Mesopotamia, in which the term “Amagi” first appeared. Through a discussion of these ancient texts, we gained insights into the earliest attempts to construct legal codes and social norms that…

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Classical Liberalism and Law in the Thought of Richard Epstein

Conferees used readings from the works of Richard Epstein to explore the rapport between the principles of classical liberalism and the conclusions that, from the perspective of the discipline of law and economics, would give rise to an efficient legal and political system.

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Liberty, Law, and Rule in Early Modern England

This conference brought together three legal and constitutional texts from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries with three English plays from the same period. The Elizabethan and Jacobean periods saw strong rulers but also witnessed a flowering of parliaments and a period in which liberty—at least for some—had never…

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Law and Justice from an Evolutionary Perspective

The focus of this conference was on Garrett Barden and Tim Murphy's book, Law and Justice in Community. In the book, the authors offer a conception of law that emphasized that the fundamental institutions of law evolved in a natural way, and that law is not necessarily state law. This…

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Emilio Rabasa: Liberty, Politics, and the Law

Legal theorist and historian Emilio Rabasa (1856–1930) was quite possibly Mexico’s most formidable constitutional scholar. Conferees discussed Rabasa's critiques of the Mexican political institutions during his lifetime that helped set back economic and political development in Mexico for much of the century.

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Law and the Limits of the Spontaneous Order

Where does law come from and how is it "created"? This conference analyzed the evolutionary process of law as a spontaneous order. The goal was to discuss and debate how efficient procedures of justice are created and ask whether these procedures emerge spontaneously or whether the government plays some role…

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Law and Liberty in China and Japan

This Socratic seminar examined liberty in two legal orders in the Far East, Japan and China. Japan provides illustrations of a legal order that departs from the West in many substantive and procedural ways, yet provides a stable legal environment that promotes economic development and individual liberty. China has been…

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The Compass of Liberty in the Writings of Roscoe Pound and Lon Fuller

This conference investigated the legal thought of Roscoe Pound and Lon Fuller. Both shared an acute interest in the various ways in which law both facilitated and infringed upon liberty.

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The Emancipation Proclamation at 150 years

This conference discussed the meaning and significance of the Emancipation Proclamation, on the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's great act. Many believe that the Emancipation Proclamation has a special Constitutional relationship and is worthy of high status. This conference sought to understand whether this view is justified and why.

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Law and Liberty: Medieval Roman Law and the Analysis of Politics

This conference explored the contributions of medieval European ius commune and Roman canon law to the development of political ideas such as popular control over rulers (and rulers accountability), local political autonomy, consent-based rule, and plural sovereignty. These ideas, in turn, played important roles in the development of the republican…

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Hugo Grotius, Natural Law, and Human Freedom

This conference was based on the reading and discussion of the two most famous works by Hugo Grotius: Mare Liberum (1609) and De Jure Belli ac Pacis (1625). The focus was on the place of natural law in these two works, considering its sources, its content, its relationship to liberty,…

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Law, Liberty, and Federalism

Conferees explored the history and current state of federalism as a matter of constitutional design and as a matter of practice, using readings in both political theory and case law.

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The Rule of Law: Anglo-American versus Continental Conceptions in Theory and Practice

This conference explored the concept of the rule of law, focusing particularly on distinctions between how this idea is understood and protected in the Anglo-American and Continental legal traditions.

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Liberty in James Bryce’s “Studies in History and Jurisprudence”

This conference was on James Bryce's Studies in History and Jurisprudence. It explored the role of the rule of law within the Western tradition and also covered issues of limited government, judicial power, constitutions, and sovereignty.

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Liberty, Responsibility, and the Legal Profession

This colloquium focused on the legal profession. The conferees discussed how the practice of law has evolved in the United States over time, and the different ways in which lawyers have been perceived. The six sessions each examined a particular aspect of the legal profession in an attempt to discover…

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Liberty in Sir William Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Laws of England”

Blackstone’s Commentaries, particularly those sections dealing with the British constitutional structure and the nature of law within the English common-law system, illuminates the contemporary background of American constitutional thought at the founding and throws light on important questions regarding American constitutionalism. Blackstone’s work highlights the issue of the extent to…

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The Idea of Law

The conference examined Professor Shirley Robin Letwin’s concept of the evolution of the idea of law itself, and how the modern, open society enjoyed in Western countries today developed, matured, and has come to challenge the evolved understanding of law.

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Law, Politics, and Economics in the Thought of Bruno Leoni

Conferees explored the thought of Bruno Leoni using readings touching on politics, economics, and law.

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The Rule of Law and Criminal Prosecutions

In this conference, conducted in Portueguese, conferees discussed the risks posed to the ideal of a free society by politically motivated abuses of the power to initiate a criminal prosecution on behalf of the state, focusing on the Brazilian case.

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Law, Liberty, and Respublica

The aim of the conference was to look at the concept of individual liberty as being conditioned by a well-ordered political community understood as res publica, rzeczpospolita, or commonwealth, a republic of laws envisaged by early modern republican authors in Poland, Italy, and England.

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Liberty, Power, and the Rule of Law

Conferees investigated different understandings of the concept of the rule of law and how these overlap with the principles of classical liberalism, giving special emphasis to how the idea of the rule of law has manifested itself (or has failed to manifest itself) in the context of India.

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Law, Covenant, and Property in the Jewish Tradition

This conference inquired into what-if any-understanding of individual liberty emerges from the Jewish political tradition. Our discussions, in which the ideas of covenant and law serve a central organizing purpose, began with the Torah, moving next to Talmudic interpretations, and finally to questions about political and economic organization in contemporary…

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Policing in a Free Society

Public policing, as it has evolved since the nineteenth century in the United States and Europe, has become a complex and highly controversial part of modern government. This colloquium will focus on the development and growth of public policing in the United States and will examine the questions and problems…

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Constitutionalism and Liberty

This conference explored the relationship between constitutionalism and limited government in terms of historical and theoretical foundations as well as mechanisms, such as separation of powers.

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